Jameeleh’s only school was out in the nature. She liked animals, especially the cows and chickens at El-Turk’s farm. Unlike the other kids, they acknowledged her kindness to them and they never hurt her. Back in the sixties, there was no special school for kids like Jameeleh. While all the other kids her age are at school, she goes to El-Turk’s barn. El-Turk was the farm owner’s nickname. He got his nickname since no one knows his real name, Bahjat, except for only a few old people who forgot it by the years. There were many stories about how he ended up living in the village. But there were two most common ones. Some say he was a fugitive after fleeing from Lebanon, where he was serving in the Ottoman military as a Nefer (private). Others say he killed his superior in the military, over a dispute about how they treated the Arabs, and fled. Although, the latter story is not true most people believed it more. Either case he fled the Ottoman military and this was enough for the people of the village to welcome him to live among them, but maybe not to marry one of them. He lived single his entire life.
Jameeleh’s Autism affected her brain’s normal development which led to her lack of social and communication skills. Unfortunately, the absence of awareness of Autism, among the people of the village, made Jameeleh’s situation hard on her and her family. The other kids constantly bullied and teased her. Sometimes they would call her names such as “Jameeleh el–majnooneh” (retard) or “Jameeleh el–hablah” (crazy.)
Jameeleh was taught to return home when she hears the Thuhur Athan (call for prayer), to eat her lunch and to shorten the time she is outside alone as much as possible. But one day she didn’t return home when she was supposed to. When Um Jameeleh found her daughter lying down on a haystack, inside El-Turk’s barn, she sensed something bad happened to her daughter. She woke her up and they went to their house.
“Why were you sleeping?” “Why didn’t you come home when you got tired?” “Was anybody with you?” “Did anyone hurt you?” After a series of questions the mother figured out a man lured her daughter to the barn.
On Monday and Thursday, El-Turk goes to Irbid to buy supplies. When he is not on his farm, Jameeleh knows she should not enter the barn. She wanders somewhere else on these two days. But that Thursday, when her mother found her lying down, she was on the farm.
Jameeleh gets a new dress every time her father returns from his travel. Almost all her dresses look the same; ankle length and long sleeves, usually a white floral dress. When Jameeleh became a teen her mother made sure all her daughter’s dresses were loose or at least one size bigger. Um Jameeleh knows how to hem a dress. Knowing her daughter likes to play outside she wanted to dress her daughter something unflattering to make sure a moment like this never happen. But it did.
Um Jameeleh never anticipated sick men’s lust for an easy prey. She didn’t know also that Jameeleh can’t parts away from her only friend, her doll. Jameeleh had to follow her doll when it was snatched from her and used as a bait to lure her to El-Turk’s barn.
To be continued …